We are very familiar with antibiotics but few have an idea about probiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria and probiotics are bacteria which are beneficial for your digestive system. Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body.
Not all of the bacteria in your body are good for you. Some research suggests that having too many of the ‘bad’ and not enough of the ‘good’ bacteria — caused in part by an unhealthy diet — can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body’s systems. This imbalance can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, constipation or diarrhoea and various chronic health conditions.
Probiotics can be found in some yoghurts, cheeses, kefir (fermented milk drink), Sauerkraut (cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria), Kimchi (a Korean dish of salted and fermented vegetables) and dietary supplements etc.
The right type and amount of a probiotic can help you in several ways by promoting healthy immune system, supporting weight management plans, preventing occasional diarrhoea or constipation etc. If you are lactose intolerant, you can experience stomach discomfort if you try to get your probiotics from dairy products. In that case, consider using a dairy-free probiotic.
Take a probiotics with caution if you are taking antibiotics or prescription drugs that affect your immune system, being treated for a fungal infection or have pancreatitis. Taking probiotics may not be safe if you often get infections, have a weakened immune system and are allergic to the sources of probiotics (dairy for example). If you are considering taking probiotics, check with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or have a health condition.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Z H Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital, Dhaka.